Life

The life of Santa Marina Vergine of Bitinia is certainly one of the most fascinating stories found in the countless Christian hagiographies available.

Santa Marina was born in Bithynia, the ancient Roman region of Asia Minor, more precisely in Lebanon, between the 5th and the 7th centuries. Marina was born into a Christian family of humble origins, from whom she received the first religious teachings.

At the age of ten, after his mother's death, his father, called Eugene, venerated as a saint by the Greek Orthodox Church, decided to entrust the young daughter to some relatives and to retire to the Cenobio, a monastery, located in the valley of Kanoubine, in Syria, made of cells and caves carved into the rock. Here the  friars lived a life of solitude and prayer following the rules of San Basilio. Their sadness, due to the distance, forced the father, on consent and desire of his daughter, to devise a trick to make it admit her in the convent. After being asked the reason why he was sad, Eugene explained the Abbot that he left his soon home. Moved by the story of Eugene, the Abbot admitted his son to the monastery.

Once he came back home, he shaved his daughter's long hair, dressed her as a man and changed her name into Marino. Soon after they both walked towards the monastery. During the long journey the father instructed his 14-year-old daughter in reading, he explained the commandments and the life of Jesus, and taught her everything she needed to fight the "pitfalls of the enemy"; finally he made his daughter promise that she should never reveal her real identity to anyone. They lived together in the same cell for three years until the death of Eugene.

The young Marina, however, continued in solitude the monastic life meticulously observing the commandments and the doctrine imparted to her by her father, progressing day by day her virtue, through an intense activity of prayer and meditation. She soon became an example for all the friars and for this reasons the abbot loved her more than the others.

Every month some monks, in turn, were sent by the Abbot to the neighboring villages to make some business. Halfway through the journey, as the night approached, they stayed in an inn to rest themselves. One day also Marino was sent together with the other monks and spent the night in the usual inn. The innkeeper’s daughter got pregnant with a soldier who stayed at the inn the same day the monks stayed there. The innkeeper's daughter charged Marino with harassment. The enraged girl's parents went to the monastery and told what happened to the abbot who called Marino to hear from his mouth if the accusations were true. Marino probably did not admit his guilt, but after thinking for a long time, he began to cry and spoked the following words: " Father, I sinned, I am prepared for penitence ".

After punishing Marino, the Abbot persecuted him. Therefore Marino suffered a lot of hardship for three years of hardship near the monastery, lying on the ground, weeping and afflicting himself for something he did not commit, praying and never telling anyone about what happened. He lived on wild herbs and accepting some alms. Moreover, after his daughter had given birth, the innkeeper entrusted her with the "son of sin", named Fortunato, who grew up with love and patience.

After three years, , impressed by so much virtue, the monks of the convent asked the abbot to re-admit Marino. Finally Marino was readmitted to monastery together with the child, provided that he was put to full service of the friars; so they were assigned the most humble jobs that he did without ever complaining, not neglecting the adopted son who was raised with love.

After some time, exhausted because of hardwork, Marino was found dead in his cell at the age of 25. That's how the monks discovered that Marino was actually a woman. Everyone began to cry and beat their breasts because of what they did. After hearing the news the innkeeper's daughter, who was possessed by the devil, ran to the convent shouting his "shame" and Santa Marina set her free from the devil. On that day the body was left in the oratory for the devotion of the people. The following days the people from the neighboring villages rushed to the bedside of the saint who was soon buried inside the monastery. Some time later his remains were transferred to Romania and then, at the behest of emperors, they were taken to Byzantium. On July 17, 1228 they were taken to Venice and set in the Church dedicated to her. Between 1806 and 1810, during the Napoleonic domination, the Church of Santa Marina was suppressed and the relics were moved to the nearby Church of Santa Maria Formosa, where they are still kept inside a reliquary.

 


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